ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and France agreed on Wednesday to strengthen and diversify bilateral trade and economic ties in the coming years.
The understanding was reached during the meeting of Pakistan Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar with France’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester. Pakistan Charge d’Affaires Amjad Aziz Qazi was also present during the meeting.
In the wake of the cartoon incident in France, Pakistan has yet to post its regular ambassador to the European country. The proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) took to the streets and blocked many parts of the country to pressure the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan.
Soon after coming into power, the new government decided to send commerce ministers to lobby with major European capitals for the next preferential market access and minimise the negative fallout of former prime minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia. It is expected that France may support Pakistan’s case in June and drop its objection over the removal of Pakistan from the FATF grey list to normal.
An official announcement said that the commerce minister informed his French counterpart that Pakistan enjoys historic friendly and cooperative relations with France and wishes to strengthen and diversify bilateral trade and economic linkages in the years to come.
Mr Qamar said Pakistan-France trade has witnessed steady growth in recent years. He emphasised that Pakistan’s strategic location, fast developing infrastructure and liberal investment policies of the government make the country an attractive destination for foreign investors.
The minister noted that since its launch in 2014, the GSP Plus scheme has helped in creating an enabling environment for the implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance in beneficiary countries. He further highlighted that besides increasing employment opportunities, especially for women, the scheme helped boost Pakistan’s export sector.
Mr Qamar appreciated the support of European member states, especially France, in securing the GSP Plus status in 2014 and hoped that the upcoming GSP Plus 2024 would further strengthen the mutually beneficial trade ties between Pakistan and the EU.
He added that Pakistan wishes to remain constructively engaged with the EU and its member states to further enhance our commercial relations and to cooperate in terms of protection and promotion of the social, economic, and other rights of the Pakistani people.
He noted that Pakistan’s exports to France are dominated by the textile sector, and there is immense potential to diversify trade to other sectors such as agriculture, dairy, clean energy, the digital economy, and startups.
Earlier, the commerce minister met Senator Pascal Allizard, president of the Pakistan-France Friendship Group in the French Senate, and discussed matters related to Pakistan-France bilateral relations. He also visited the headquarters of MEDEF International, the largest association of French companies, where he was received by its Deputy CEO, Géraldine Lemblé.
He had a discussion with representatives of French businesses already working in Pakistan or interested in doing business with Pakistan.
These included Axens, Bureau Veritas, L’Oréal, Sanofi, Phenixya–Thompson Broadcast, Stellantis, Adit and Sergi France.
The minister is currently on an official visit to major EU capitals, including Brussels, The Hague, and Berlin.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022